(February 3, 2011)
I’m no expert on the Middle East or Arab world…no degrees in political science, Arab studies or international relations. No trips to the Middle East, no friends or family from the region. In fact, other than reading and watching the news, I don’t have a clue about the place; I’m completely ignorant. Turns out, it seems that I’m the same as every expert on the region. On New Year’s Eve, no one, not the CIA, the Israeli’s, The Europeans, not even the Arabs themselves could have predicted what the Middle East on January 31st would look like. It’s sudden, unexpected, frightening and messy. The one thing everyone knows is that no one knows if this is a new beginning, or the beginning of the end.
Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen. It’s very hard to believe that very soon the rest of the Arab countries won’t be far behind. And it’s either a terrifying prospect or an exhilarating change, take your pick. The citizens of Tunisia and Egypt seem to be politically secular, intelligent and, in so far as it goes in the Middle East, liberal. If these revolutions end in democratically elected secular governments, then this is the new beginning. If they result in Iranian style theocracies, the rest of the world is screwed. And I can’t help but think that if the latter occurs, it will be the fault of the United States, Israel and the rest of the West, not to mention those idiots at Wiki-Leaks.
Yeah, Wiki-Leaks. The people who believe that just because they can, they should. The people who believe that all government communications should be public but their own Twitter accounts are sacred. A hard group to respect, but although they may be a catalyst for what’s happening, they’re not the point of this piece, so fuck em for now. I can’t help but think that the United States’ and Israel’s paranoia had more to do with these revolts than Wiki-Leaks. If we had only played it differently a long time ago, like back in 1933.
Let’s imagine a reality that never happened: The countries of the “Free World”, America, Great Britain, Europe and the rest, see the rise of Nazism and Fascism and it’s attendant anti-Semitism and, even if they couldn’t stop Hitler and Mussolini, said, “Okay, just let the Jews (and the Gays and the Catholics and the Gypsies and whoever) go, let us take them. We’ll welcome them here.” Millions of Jewish lives would have been saved and the Jews would have, after centuries of justifiable nervousness, at least never experienced the ultimate terror that resulted in the conviction that the only solution was their own homeland, a place where they could be safe. They may have still dreamed of Israel, but they wouldn’t have had the same…moral obligation…to future generations of Jews to create a Jewish State on Arab soil. And I don’t wanna hear about where they lived 2,000 years ago. You wanna give America back to the Native Americans? Huh? Do You? Actually, they’d have done a better job. Missed opportunity, that.
But that of course didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because the Jewish people were pretty much correct; everyone really did hate them. Britain didn’t want them, the United States didn’t want them, nor France or Spain or anyone. Even after the Allies won the war and saw exactly what terrors the Axis had visited on them, we still didn’t want them. No, we all decided the best solution was to let the Jews do the only thing that could make them feel safe- let them have their own country. After all, why not? They were just gonna carve out a piece of land that some ignorant Arabs had been living on for few thousand years, no big deal. It’s easier to give the Israeli’s guns to fight for their new country than to actually have them live among us. It’s just some worthless desert anyway, so who cares?
Well, the Arabs cared. A lot. They had two reasons for caring…first they didn’t like the Jews any more than we did and second, the whole world was forcing them off their land, out of their homes and if that wasn’t enough, no one did a damn thing to compensate them for heir loss, because after all, they were just fucking Muslims anyway. The British and the French had owned them for more than a century; they would keep them in line. What’s the big deal?
Again, two things. Now the Arabs not only hated the Jews, the hated the West too. But those countries were ruled by Shah’s and Kings and dictators. It’s easy to co-opt ruling families and strongmen. Give em tanks and planes and guns and they’ll keep their citizens in check. And if we arm Israel too, they’ll keep the Arab rulers in check, and vice-versa.
The second thing was oil, lots and lots of oil. Not in Israel, ironically enough, but in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, almost the entire Arab world. Whoops. Suddenly the ignorant camel jockey’s were serious players on the world stage and we had a big problem. But as long as we controlled the leaders, we were alright. Then over the years, Khadafy took Libya, Egypt tried to take Israel, OPEC flexed it’s muscle, Khomeini took Iran, Lebanon fell apart, the Taliban took Afghanistan, we took Afghanistan and Iraq and the Middle East became what it is today.
And from America’s point of view, what it is today is a seething cauldron of anti- American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, Muslim extremism. And from their point of view, the people’s of these countries are the victims of alternately heavy-handed control and support and lassie-faire indifference to what the leaders of those people were doing.
Until Twitter and Face Book and yes, Wiki-Leaks, that is. Suddenly, everybody knew what was going on. Turns out, most of them didn’t like it at all. Tunisia fell to the people and now Egypt and Yemen are falling too. Who knows who’ll fall next. It’s the Domino Principle, Arab style. Some may fall to democracy, some to theocracy. We don’t know. They don’t know.
But I can’t help thinking that if Israel had really been open to the two-state solution, if the United States had really pushed them to, or really paid attention to Afghanistan after they helped Osama bin Laden and the Taliban take it back from the Soviet Union, or stayed the hell out of Iraq, or something…if they just really fucking cared, this would all be different. Now? Who the hell knows what will happen. Welcome to the End Times. Good Luck.